In the alternate chronology established by the New 52, Batgirl has only just headed back out on patrol after three years of partial paralyis caused by Joker’s attempt on her life.
The ten issues we’ve seen so far since the relaunch have focused primarily on this as a theme and central plot point: Barbara Gordon is back in costume and on the streets, but is she really ready?
Every fight is a struggle to regain her discipline, training, strength, resolve, and judgment.
Much of it returns when she really needs it, welling up from a reserve she is not sure she still has. Nevertheless, she struggles, mostly with finding the trust in herself she once had.
When she finds it, she overcomes great odds, but when she falters – especially when confronted with a gun – Batgirl flashes back to the attack or her time in a wheelchair and it’s a great setback.
The villains, new, old and renewed, come and go from the story in a good clip, and with skillfully crafted segue, but the real villain here is Batgirl herself.
The villains are reflections of her own pain and internal drama – literally, in the case of ‘The Mirror’ – rather than just a parade of goof-balls.
This is combined with a new emotional struggle for Batgirl’s alter-ego, as Barbara’s mother has come back to Gotham after abandoning her family many years ago.
She claims that she left to protect the family, but Barbara has yet more trust issues here. The Batgirl serial has used well its themes of strength, regret, and trust to weave a compelling character, as well as a moving story of a girl lost in her own life. The audience's attention is constantly held by her vulnerability, while also admiring her personal her personal strength - which is definitely a tough balance to hit.
I don’t like comparing works across media, but in this case, I can’t help but think about the recent controversy with the upcoming Tomb Raider game, in which, in an attempt to create a vulnerable female protagonist, the writers have resorted to sexual assault, the clichéd standby for crafting vulnerable females. Take note: Batgirl is how strong, yet vulnerable female characters are done right, without the shortcuts.
The most recent issue, the tenth, has introduced another new villain arc with the introduction of The Disgraced, a team of mercenary vigilantes funded by a disturbed young heiress, Charise, who is also running social programs similar, but in opposition to, Bruce Wayne’s – Wayne wants to rebuild, while Charise wants to renovate - and led by a shadowy figure called Nightfall, whose identity has not yet been revealed.
This new villain team first want Batgirl to join them, but when she sees that their mission involves killing any criminals they find, she declines, and is forced to face off against them. It’ll be interesting to see if Batgirl will need to enlist help to deal with this bunch, or if she’ll take them on all by herself. Either way, I’m looking forward to more of the story in the months to come, in addition to the #0 issue which is slated to hit shelves in September.
Batgirl is one of the New 52 I’ve personally been enjoying the most, and if you haven’t picked it up yet, you should add it to your read list, especially if you’re a Gotham fan who is perhaps a little tired of seeing the city through Batman’s eyes all the time.